Funds identified for Christmas bonus for public employees now await fiscal board’s approval
By John McPhaul
Treasury Secretary Francisco Parés Alicea said Wednesday that officials have identified the funds to pay the Christmas bonus to Puerto Rico’s public employees and have notified the Financial Oversight and Management Board to that effect.
“The Office of Management and Budget [OMB] has already identified the funds,” Parés Alicea said in an interview on “Pegaos en la Mañana” on Radio Isla 1320 AM. “The position of the OMB was that one allocation was overestimated, and [the OMB] requested [that it be allowed] to allocate part of that overestimation to be used to pay the Christmas bonus.”
Parés Alicea said that “what was presented to the [oversight] board should be approved.”
“And the board is going to meet soon, so we must already have a clear picture,” he added. “But as for the identification of funds, we can do it.”
For her part, the executive director of the oversight board, Natalie Jaresko, said the matter will be the subject of discussion this Friday at a meeting of the federal entity.
“The government presented us with a proposal to move funds and we will see if that move is consistent or not with the Fiscal Plan,” Jaresko said at a press conference. “The board has not yet evaluated it.”
At the most recent oversight board meeting on Oct 30, Justin Peterson, the board member appointed by President Donald Trump, left the meeting, leaving the federal entity created under the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management and Economic Stability Act (PROMESA) without the votes for a resolution authorizing it to negotiate a new plan of adjustment (POA) that would cut debt by 86 percent after board member Ana Matosantos said the new POA should be submitted to the court regardless of the negotiations with creditors.
Currently, the oversight has four members, all of whom it needs in order to have a quorum and approve resolutions.
Gov. Wanda Vázquez Garced said Monday that the island government needs $23 million to complete the $63 million to pay Christmas bonuses to public employees. Now the money has been found and the government only needs the fiscal board’s green light, she said.
“As you know, the payment of the Christmas bonuses to public employees is a priority for my administration. The Office of Management and Budget has already identified the $23 million to complete the $63 million necessary and fulfill this promise,” the governor said. “Once we have the approval of the Financial Oversight and Management Board, the Treasury Department will begin the process of sending this money out.”
Vázquez said the $23 million will come from a funding item from the “PayGo,” or retirement payments to public employees.
“This money will be used to complete the bonus payment for 98,535 central government employees at this time when the finances of many families are being harmed by the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and the terrible impact it has had on the country’s economy,” she said.
Vázquez insisted that the transfer of the identified funds will not affect the PayGo system and expressed hope that there will be no objections to the payments.
“We are confident that the board will approve the proposal that has been presented for the benefit of thousands of government employees,” the governor said. “The process of analysis and identification of funds for the payment of the Christmas bonuses began approximately two months ago. As part of the ordinary procedures, on October 1 we sent the memorandum to all agencies so that they could submit the required information on or before October 15, and last Saturday we submitted the official proposal for the consideration of the fiscal control board.”